Thursday, January 22, 2015

“Matters of the Heart” (Isaiah 40:1-2)

S-1472 SOHLS/3B 1/18/2015 Hymns: (O) #234; #535 vvs1-4; #535 vvs5-9; (S) #61; (C) #47
Texts: Psalm 51:1-6; Isaiah 40:1-2; 2 Corinthians 4:1-18; John 14:1-7
Theme: “Matters of the Heart” (Isaiah 40:1-2)
Question: “Do you have heart troubles?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia. The text is from the O. T. lesson: “Comfort, comfort My people, says Your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and cry to her that her warfare is ended that her iniquity is pardoned that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins” (Isaiah 40:1-2).

Precious children of the heavenly Father, I ask you to look at the back cover of your bulletin and read the portion that deals with: “About the Cover:” We are told that Philip’s joy cannot be contained: “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote” (John 1:45). But Philip issues the invitation: “Come and see” (v. 46). This is the heart of the Church’s Mission in the world: To invite the skeptics to come and see, to meet Jesus as He still comes to be among us with His saving gifts in Word and Supper.”

Indeed, the Church’s mission is a matter of the heart—a heart that is broken and blackened by sin; a heart that bleeds and burst due to damaged relationships with God and others. The Church of God has been planted on this earth to help others know who Jesus Christ is and turn hearts back to God’s, to worship Him, fear Him and serve Him with heart, mind, body and soul.

Today as we observe Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, we confess and teach that this is not a political or a personal issue, it is not a secular or choice issue, but a matter of the heart that chooses to be disobedient to the Living God and His precious Word. In this way there financial gain through the slaughter of unborn children and indulge in sexual immorality.

I ask you to brace yourself; because this is not going to be pretty. A nation that snuffs out its next generation is one whose torch won’t burn long. A nation that puts to death unborn children who are helpless is one who will endure severe punishment at the hands of the One who said, “Let the children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God” (Matthew 18:16). A nation that disobeys the Word of the Lord will endure His wrath. Actions have consequences in this life too. 

According to the Center for Disease Control, abortions performed in our nation from 1976 through 2012 ranged from a little over 500,200 to more than 700,000 per year! That amounts to obliterating Seattle, Denver, Louisville, Baltimore, Tucson, Nashville, Milwaukee, and Las Vegas—one city every year for 36 years and counting. All this, with the sanction and blessing of the US Supreme Court, the joy of many secularists; and the uncaring approval of liberal churches. How sad that life created in the image of God can be disposed of like a dirty diaper in a dumpster.

Martin Luther, that great German monk, who set the Church back on the right path, once remarked that this world is nothing but a large graveyard. It’s rather hard to disagree, isn’t it?

Yet into this fallen, bloody world of death, the God of free and faithful grace sent His Son, to show us the way, and fix our hearts to love and obey Him. PAUSE.

Saints in Christ, today’s text calls us to repentance and drastic change in our lives and the lives of people we know. God comes to do the impossible for us, exchange our hearts because our hearts are full of evil and wickedness.

Through the prophet Isaiah, God tells him to cry out to His people saying their warfare has ended. Inside of each of us is a spiritual struggle for first place in our hearts, for who or what will be God in our lives. When we arrive at the place of repentance, knowing we cannot save ourselves, we have reached the point of surrender. We are captive to Christ and no longer insist on our own wisdom or our own way. There is no longer a need to resist or rebel. We have lost the battle and He has won the war for our eternal salvation.

Isaiah calls us today to look up and outside ourselves to the One who created us in His image to love life and care for it. Isaiah exhorts us to fight the fight to protect and preserve life. But alas, it is impossible for us because none of us have hearts that love God or desire to serve Him constantly. The prophet Jeremiah said this: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah. 17:9). The Spiritual Cardiologist—Jesus Christ scans our hearts and finds deep disease: “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery,  coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness” (Mark 7:21-22). He describes our problem in gigantic proportions: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God” (Romans 3:10-11). You see it is a matter of the heart.

We live in a day and age where sin is not talked about. People and even churches are silent about sin and its consequences. Some mental-health professionals mock our need for divine forgiveness. At the same time we are destroying life that God created whether planned or unplanned. This is life in the womb—life in the image of God. PAUSE.

Today, in our observance and celebration of Life Sunday we acknowledge that we are all participants in a culture that promotes values that lead to the acceptance of abortion as a right. In many ways we have all failed to speak up in opposition, all accepted it as inescapable, all compromised in part by believing it is possible to accept both the values of the secular culture and Christian faith. Instead of pointing the finger of judgment at others, we realize we too are convicted by the wise counsel of God through the prophet Isaiah and need to hear these words. This is truly a matter of the heart, our hearts!

This is a matter of the heart that is more than a book by Danielle Steel, more than a song by Tracy Chapman. It is more than our feelings, our pleasure, or our preoccupation with our own desires. This is really the greatest matter of the heart, the everlasting and Ruler God in our lives. This is the issue raised in the first commandment. What place does God have in our lives? Luther makes clear in his explanation to the first commandment that an idol is anything that we give priority over God’s rightful place.

If God occupies our hearts completely, then He alone rules our lives. His Word guides and directs our lives, our behaviors, thoughts, emotions, and desires. His Word shapes our values and decisions. When His Word conflicts with the values of the world we oppose the world and follow Him.

Above all else, His Word proclaims the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the profound nature of His love for us. In the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ we receive the promise of salvation and redemption. His love for us in Jesus Christ has the power to free us from the bondage to all other idols, all competing cultural values, all self-destructive behaviors. This is the greatest word of comfort for our hearts.

“Comfort, comfort My people says Your God.” The Holy Spirit is the Comforter Jesus promised to send. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that transforms our lives and guides us in the paths of righteousness. To those who admit their sins and struggle to turn in the direction of faith in Jesus Christ, we are called to “speak tenderly.” To those who grieve the fact they have compromised their faith to worship idols, embraced culture above Christ, and participated in perverse sexual activity, including those behaviors that contribute to the acceptance of abortion and now long for transformation and for the redemptive embrace of Jesus, God speaks a tender word into our hearts.

We, who are His chosen and precious children, by the Spirit’s power hear the comforting message that deals with our hearts saying: “Comfort, comfort My people says Your God.” For the sake of Christ our Savior, the Lord has comforted us by exchanging our wicked and evil hearts with His and now we live with the hope of sins forgiven and salvation received. All because He let His heart be torn open on Calvary’s beams and place in our heart the love that leads us to honor, serve and worship Him forever and ever. Amen.

Now the peace of God…

“Getting into the Fray” (Mark 1:9-11)

S-1471 BOC/3B 1/11/2015 Hymns: (O) #302; (S) #272; LS. #300; #304 (C) #39

Texts: Genesis 1:1-5; Romans 6:1-11; Mark 1:4-11

Theme: “Getting into the Fray” (Mark 1:9-11)

Question: “Have you ever fought?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia. The text is from the Gospel lesson: “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when He came up out of the water, immediately He saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are My beloved Son; with You I Am well pleased’ (Mark 1:9-11)

Precious children of the heavenly Father, have you ever heard the expression “Getting into the fray? Getting into the fray can mean entering a battle zone or a severe fight or becoming enmeshed or entangled in some counterproductive ways. There are many examples of “getting into the fray.” We saw it on Friday as the drama unfolded on our TV screens. In the Paris province after 7 hours of siege, French security forces got into the fray simultaneously at a printing factory and a kosher supermarket and killed 3 terrorists who committed atrocities against innocent civilians. The law enforcement officers got into the fray, not by choice but by the call of their office. They are pledged to defend and protect. When these evil doers acted, it was necessary for them to get into the fray to save lives!

It is sad to see these senseless acts of violence being carried out by devil worshipers who think they are cleansing the worlds of infidels. This violence in the name of that false and evil thing we call Islam is carried all over the world. Even around our state we read the papers and we see the carnage, bloodbath and slaughter of innocent human beings. And we ask why? Whatever name we dress it with, it comes down to one thing—SIN. Since sin has entered the world, death and destruction, chaos and confusion, pain and punishment has been part of our daily lives.

None of us are immune from experiencing the carnage and pain of living in this broken and sinful world. But thanks be to God that where sin abounds, grace abounds even more!

The Baptism of our Lord which we observe today marks Jesus’ entry into the fray. He gets into the fray to save us. He gets into the fray to redeem us from the powers to be—sin, death and the devil Jesus.

As we read these short and to the point words of Jesus’ baptism, we really don’t hear the language of conflict that you would associate with “getting into the fray.” But it is clear that these words that we read are about Jesus getting into the fray. This is one of the events that all three of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) describe and so was obviously an event that the Early Church saw as of great importance. John the Baptizer had been in the wilderness calling people everywhere to repent and Jesus, amongst others, responds by being baptized.
But have you ever wondered why did Jesus need to be baptized?” Does Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God need to repent? Why did He stand in the muddy Jordan water to be baptized? St. Matthew in his telling of the same story helps us a little more.

In that account we read that John the Baptizer didn’t want to baptize His cousin Jesus. However Jesus said: “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Mt. 3:15). To fulfill all righteousness means getting into the fray by being baptized and submitting to live under the requirement of the Law as all other human beings live. Unlike the French police officers, Jesus “got into the fray” because He chose to. This was the mission the Father sent Him on for the sake of others! This baptism in the muddy Jordan marked Him as the Man on a mission of delivering us. Jesus entered the Jordan to clean sinful hearts. This is the beginning of His ministry to save mankind from the destructive power of hell and God’s wrath. PAUSE.

Children of the heavenly Father, in the fifth Century AD, a story is told of a baptismal event that occurred when St. Patrick baptized King Aengus (ing ess). During the baptismal ceremony, St. Patrick leaned on his sharp-pointed staff and accidently stabbed the king’s foot. After the baptism was over, St. Patrick looked down at all the blood, realized what he had done, and begged the king’s forgiveness. Why did you suffer this pain in silence St Patrick asked. The king replied, I thought it was part of the ritual!”

In the king’s mind, he thought it was a ritual. But the King of kings and Lord of lords entered our world as a baby for a specific reason, to be the world’s Savior. In being baptized by the baptizer, He identified Himself with us in every way, taking our world unto Himself. He got into the fray to win our battle against the enemy the devil and free us from the bondage that shackles us.

Beloved in Christ, let be known that Jesus didn’t need to be baptized. He chose through baptism to put Himself under the requirement of the Law. Getting into the fray is for us…SINNERS. Jesus was not a sinner nor did He ever commit any sin, but…by being baptized He identified Himself as one with us to make us one with Him.

Pastor Paul, captured this thought when he wrote: “For our sake He [God] made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” ( 2 Corinthians 5:21). There in the waters of the Jordan at the hand of John, Jesus does the unthinkable and we see to what point Jesus enters this filthy and muddy water. He is baptized to put ON our sin. This is the beginning of what Luther would call the Great Exchange. Jesus becomes sin for us so that we might receive His righteousness and eternal life. Jesus takes our filth, so that we take His holiness.

How that exchange will happen plays out right there at the Jordan. Jesus is present. With the Spirit’s anointing and the Father’s blessing, we see the heavens rent asunder. Like the Temple Curtain is torn as Jesus dies and God’s people get a glimpse of God’s Mercy Seat, so here at the Jordan the people get a glimpse of God’s mercy: Jesus! PAUSE.

Beloved people of God, through this unorthodox prophet in the wilderness, John revealed (Epiphany) Jesus to the world. All eyes are opened, and begin to see the coming of salvation, Jesus Christ the Lord. As the Wise Men visited the Holy Child; Jesus, now visits all, bringing the greatest gift of all, Baptism for the forgiveness of sins. This precious gift to us sinners is far more costly than gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

In the waters of baptism, we are connected to the One who connected Himself to us in His baptism. In baptism we die and rise to a new life with Him as the Epistle lesson reminds. By His grace we rise to live pure and holy life which He earned for us as He entered the fray and fought the battle in our place.

Today, thank God that He sent His only Son, Jesus to enter our world, enter the Jordan, and get into the fray. He did this to free us from the bondage of sin and death and grant us life and salvation. He did this out of pure mercy and grace and that is why the Father is pleased with Him as we heard the voice from heaven: You are My beloved Son; with You I Am well pleased’

Holy followers of Jesus, just like king Aengus endured suffering at the spear of St. Patrick, Jesus endured more…for you. He got into the fray and at the hands of the Jewish leaders and Roman soldiers endured, humiliation, beating, spitting, and piercing with nails, crown of thorns and spear and ultimately death on a cross for you. He got into the fray so that you may escape the fires of hell and the punishment that we deserve. He did it all for you, so that you may be His forever and ever. Thanks be to God that Jesus got into the fray for us. Amen.

Now the peace…


Thursday, January 8, 2015

“In the Family Business” (Luke 2:48-49)

S-1470 2SAC/3B 1/04/2015 Hymns: (O) #2; (S) #133; (C) # 50

Texts: 1 Kings 3:4-15; Ephesians 1:3-14; Luke 2:40-52

Theme: “In the Family Business” (Luke 2:48-49)

Question: “Do you enjoy your work?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia. The text is from the Gospel lesson: “And when His parents saw Him, they were astonished. And His mother said to Him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And He said to them, ‘Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?’ (Luke 2:48-49)

Precious children of the heavenly Father, if you’re the father of a little boy, there’s a good chance that right now you are enjoying a very close connection with your son. He probably idolizes everything you do—dressing up in your clothes, imitating the way you read the paper or the way you stand when you talk. He tries to do everything you do and works hard to make sure he has your attention and your approval. You can see in your little boy’s eyes that he is utterly convinced that you are without a doubt the ultimate man in the world.

And if you are a dad whose son has gotten a bit older, you can stop for a moment and smile when you recollect those special days with your young son. As time goes by, though, your son gets older and your relationship changes. When your son begins to develop into a young man, both of you face challenges that mean working a little bit harder to maintain your bond. The relationship you develop now will set the course for a lifetime bond between you and your son.

That bond comes when every father builds a strong relationship between him and his son. To be sure, every father dreams of his son[s] following in his footsteps. Whether you are a pastor, painter, farmer, pharmacist, carpenter or grocery store owner, you hope and pray that one day your son[s] takes your trade and keeps the family business going.

When a child follows in his father’s footsteps, the father is proud and happy to see that the family business is carried on. He smiles and cherishes the fact that father and son are a team—working hard to build a future for years to come. Joy fills dad’s heart and maybe even a quick step in his feet. PAUSE.

The Gospel of St. Luke’s text for this morning, is such a beautiful story of a father and son working together to build a future not for themselves but for those who have broken the relationship with them. Having celebrated the birth of the Savior, witnessed His circumcision on the 8th day and dedication on the 40th, we now move fast forward when he is 12 years old.

Luke tells us that His parents’ custom was to travel to Jerusalem to worship at the Temple. But something unusual happened. When the parents return to their home—Nazareth, the young lad—Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem. It took 3 days for His parents to realize that He wasn’t with them. Now don’t dial up the Social Service Agency because His parents were uncaring, callous or heartless. On the contrary, they were very loving. The only difference is when the parents traveled; they traveled with other family members and friends from the same village. So deep in their hearts they knew He would be with someone from Nazareth.

With earnest and broken hearts they began to look for Him. They found Him back in Jerusalem at the temple teaching. They asked Him: “...Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” He said to them {emphatically}: “Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?”

Even at the tender age of youth, Jesus was about the Father’s business, not as a carpenter but as the One who is set out to redeem us; carrying on the great mission of redeeming us from the destructive powers of hell, the devil and sin. PAUSE.

In the book of Exodus we read these words: “You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments” (20:5-6). With these words Moses tells us God visits the iniquity to the 3rd and 4th generations of them that hate him, and shows mercy to the thousands of them that love Him and keep His commandments.

Parents have a tremendous impact. We see what dad does. And any father knows the heartaches, headaches and sleepless nights when his son breaks the bonds of love and walks out from under His care. Fathers know firsthand what happens when the son doesn’t carry the family business. Broken relationships! Broken hearts! Broken dreams! And broken lives!

That is the life we live in. I don’t need to remind you of how many father and son relationships have gone sour and south. When that happens you know the pain. You have seen the distraught faces and heard the angry words of many father and son. And this relationship affects the whole family. This even happens in the church, when sins rear its ugly head and relationships are broken, hearts are torn apart and people leave never to return again.

That is the real world we live in—life of suffering, pain, anguish and hardship all because of sin that rules and ruins our lives. But that is why the Savior was sent to earth.

We see this in Jesus, the 12 year old boy, the Bar-Mitpha’d man, as He saw His Father reflected in the way His earthly father cared for Him and for His mother. He saw His true Father’s love and perfectly, reflected it perfectly (Hebrews 1:3). On both levels, Jesus was a faithful Son - He became a carpenter, one who joins two or more separate pieces together, who cuts, who sands and shapes, and varnishes, and who brings beauty forth... and He was true to His Father by completing the mission to once again join the separated and fallen race to its true Father (John 20:17), removing the rough spots, sanding and shaping it if you will, in the forgiveness of sins (1 Peter 3:21); covering us not with varnish, but with His Holy precious blood and the garment of salvation.

This is indeed what Jesus came to do and did. He came to carry on the family business. He was by His Father in the Garden of Eden, in the Wilderness of Sinai, in the Red Sea, into the Promised Land and in Jerusalem. In the Temple He taught and explained the love of the Heavenly Father. From the Temple He was carried to a cruel tree to hang on until dead; and put in a tomb. But 3 days later He completed the family business of saving us by rising from the dead. He did this so that He can make us part of His family and that, we, by grace carry on the family business. PAUSE.

Beloved and precious children of God, recently I heard of a story that took place in Los Anglos. A man was standing in line to buy some jewelry for his wife from a vender. Before him stood a woman. As she approached the vender’s table and began to look at the displayed items. She said, “LOOK A MAN ON A PLUS SIGN, HOW INTERESTING!” A man on the plus sign, she didn’t know the story of Jesus and His death and His word in the family business. Pause…

Today, beloved children of the heavenly Father, we are called to be in the Father’s business. This message of life and salvation IS the family business. We have been adopted into the family in the waters of Holy Baptism. His business becomes our business. We share it with our brother Jesus. We are about it every time the Lord gathers us to His house. Here we are gathered around His Word and Sacrament. Here we serve in the family by serving our brothers and sisters and our neighbors by becoming His hands and feet as we proclaim the Good News of our salvation and share the hope of glory with all people that they too, maybe part of this great and blessed family.

By the Spirit’s power you are in the family business. God has made us His very own. For that we say blessed be the name of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit who keeps us working with Him to share His love. Amen.

Now the peace…


“In Humility Learning to Number Our Days!” (Luke 2:8-12)

S-1469 NE/3B 12/31/2014 Hymns: (O) #102; 97; 647; 92; (S) #109; (C) # 94

Texts: Psalm 90; Romans 13:8-14; Luke 18:1-8

Theme: “In Humility Learning to Number Our Days!” (Luke 2:8-12) 6th in sermon series on: “Humility in the Holy Land”

Question: “How much time do you have to live?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia. The text for our New Year’s Eve is Psalm 90 whose author is Moses. During the sermon I recommend that you look at the text in your bulletin. Please notice that Moses through this Psalm helps us look both ways. Verses 1-11 calls upon us to look back at the gracious protection and providence of God. Then verses 12-17 ask us to look with hope and joy to what lies ahead—our guaranteed future.

Beloved in the Lord, we know that life is short and God calls us to make the best of it. We also know all too well the changes that take place in our lives. Some of the changes we welcome. Others we wince at. Some we look forward to. Others we lament. Some we rejoice at. Others we regret. As I was writing this message, my FB page beeped and I had a note (of a change) one of my classmates “Elizabeth” had gone to be with Lord (12/30). Certainly there are changes in our lives that remind us of the passing of time and how fragile life is and should be handled with care and love.

Moses, the man of God, helps us read this Psalm with comfort from sorrow, joy in sadness, and light in darkness. But He also helps us to look forward with hope—hope that is anchored in the work that the Lord has established and carried out.

The opening phrase sets the tone of the message of this inspired Word: Moses begins thus: “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations” (v. 1). With these words, Moses says Look back. Look back at how long God has been around. Look back at the One who is not time-bound, nor time-limited. Look back and learn that God is not a recent invention—He has been around forever and will be around forever.

Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting You are God” (v 2). Moses tells us God has been around before everything and anything that the human eye could see. He is steady, sturdy and strong. He is stronger and will last longer than any mountain or earth. Everything that we see, touch, hold and hold dear can easily be removed or lost. But not God! He has been here from the beginning and will be here until the end of time.

Because of these comforting words, we can by the Spirit’s power look back at our lives and know that He who is immovable and not time-bound is with us at all times. Though our lives change and will come to an end someday we ought in humility to learn to number our days and live as our lives matter. C.S. Lewis has a great quote: “Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.” This is not our permanent place—we are simply pilgrims passing through. As the hymn reminds us: Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah, Pilgrim through this barren land. I am weak, but Thou art mighty; Hold me with Thy powerful hand. Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven, Feed me till I want no more; Feed me till I want no more.”   Yes, indeed He is mighty, He is strong and He holds us in the palm of His hands. PAUSE.

Moses goes on saying: “You have set our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your presence. For all our days pass away under Your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away” (vv 8-10).

With the sins that we see before us, it would seem that any haughtiness on our part is out of place. Look deeply into the recesses of our hearts and recognize the lack. See the corruption of our nature and understand the sinful character of our very being. In the clear view of God’s Holy Law we are humbled before the Lord. Our glory, our self-construction is but a flimsy house of cards destined to collapse into ruin. However our God-humbled hearts are led by the Holy Spirit to seek Him while He may be found. Moses is telling us to go to Him because He is our retreat. He is our refuge. He is our strength and support. Without His aid and help we can’t humble ourselves.

But Moses doesn’t stop there. He wants us to look not only back but to the glorious future that God has promised and fulfilled for us. Notice how Moses helps us look to the future with these words: So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (v 12). Teach us Lord the wisdom that You provide. Give us the wisdom to know how to be humbled. For wisdom is Your gift to us sinners. Solomon wrote, The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (9:10). The wisdom that the Lord gives leads His subjects to eternal life with Him and peace in our hearts. This wisdom is comforting in knowing that He will teach us His ways that keep us from harm’s way.

Then Moses states: Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days” (v 14). In this world there is nothing that will satisfy us completely. Ask a millionaire on his death-bed what he wants more than anything else? It isn’t money. It isn’t a jet plane, cars or homes. Only God can satisfy us. As St. Augustine said, “Our lives are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” God is the only One who can, has and does satisfy us with His grace and favor which He gives us daily.

But there is still more. He alone will make us glad as He removes the burden of sin. He alone will put joy in our hearts as He fills us with His peace. He alone comforts us in the hour of sorrow and sadness. And He alone opens heaven’s gate for us.

As we look ahead into the coming year Moses shares yet more good news: In verse 16 we read these precious words: Let Your work be shown to Your servants, and Your glorious power to their children” He does show us His work. He takes us to the foot of the cross. There we see love carried out. There we see God dying for those who are wicked and evil—you and me. At the foot of the cross we learn the true meaning of His work as the angel told Joseph about the baby Mary is carrying: She will bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

At the foot of the cross we see the real work of the heaven-sent holy child. We see His mission to save us. We see that His ministry to wipe away our sins. We see His message is for all people. And those who in faith believe and hold unto these promises see the work of His hands stretched out on Calvary’s cross and as He burst forth from the tomb. PAUSE.

By the Spirit’s power we are privileged to gather one final time in His holy house to worship Him and serve Him. As we look back we see all of the sins we have committed and how sorry we are. As we look ahead, we can also see the glorious future that awaits us on account of the One who satisfies us and pours His favor upon us. Furthermore, we look up knowing the Lord is the One who takes care of us always.

Therefore tonight, I remind you that, a humble heart the Lord will not ignore; a broken and contrite spirit He will not despise. This is the glory of the Lord, that He has done great and mighty things for His people. He has provided forgiveness, life, and salvation for the world though His Son. He has promised cleansing for those who lean upon Him; He has granted life for those who have stared death in the face. As only the Holy Spirit can lead, humble yourself before the Lord; acknowledge Him to be the Lord and we, the people of His pasture. Receive the waters of life from the font and the bread of life from the feast; give thanks and be glad. Be humble before the Lord; give praise and glory to Him, and He will bestow praise on you and bring you glory–the praise and glory that come to those who bear His name. Amen.

Now the peace of God…


“I Am Ready!” (Luke 2:29-32)

S-1468 1SAC/3B 12/28/2014 Hymns: (O) #98; (S) Nunc Dimittis (29); L.S. #647; #87; (C) # 98

Texts: Isaiah 61:10-62:3; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:22-40

Theme: “I Am Ready!” (Luke 2:29-32)

Question: “Are You Ready?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen! Indeed! Alleluia. The text is from the Gospel Lesson: “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your Word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation that You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to Your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).

Beloved in the Lord being a pastor is such a blessing but it is also such a burden. A blessing because of the many privileges and honors the gracious Lord gives us to share His Word—the sweet message of the Gospel that brings about forgiveness and peace to troubled hearts and guilty consciences, administer the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper and teach the young and the old. But it is also a burden because of our limitations and because we are sinners just like the people we serve. It is even a challenge since many choose to turn away from the Word and His church and there is nothing that we can do to bring them back except by fervent prayers and committing them to the Lord so that they may awaken and repent before it is too late.

Being a pastor is indeed a blessing. As you have heard me say before, that taking the Lord’s Supper to those who are no longer able to be in the Lord’s house (shut-ins) and give them this precious gift is my favorite day of the month.

One saint in particular whenever I would visit her would always say, “Pastor I am ready! Ready to receive the Lord’s Supper and ready to leave this world to the place MY Lord has prepared for me through His death and resurrection.” Oh, these sweet words of this saint. She was eager and ready to receive the medicine of immortality.

These are the exact words of aged Simeon in the text before us today. He was saying “I Am Ready!” He is ready to depart from this world and be with Him because he has seen the salvation the Father promised him long ago. PAUSE.

Precious children of God, we certainly don’t know much about aged Simeon. What we have in Scripture is so brief but sufficient enough to let us know that this man according to St. Luke was “righteous and devout” waiting for the consolation of Israel” (2:25). This man, though righteous and devout is not perfect or without sin. But he waited, hoped and trusted the promises of God.

On this special day (40 days after the birth of Jesus) the Holy Spirit led him to the temple to see the holy family but especially to behold with his own eyes and to embrace in his own arms the baby Jesus—the salvation God had promised.

Consider the feelings, the emotions and the joy that caused his heart to dance as he held in his own arms the Savior of the world—his own Savior. He was holding God in the flesh. He was cradling forgiveness in person. He was embracing the answer to all of his hopes, fears and dreams. You can almost envision him smiling, joyful and holding tightly the baby Jesus as he sang the hymn of praise saying: Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your Word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation that You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to Your people Israel.”

Simeon had seen with his eyes and held in his arms close to his heart the Promised One—the Prince of Peace. He squeezed love with a tight embrace and having done that. He said “I Am Ready! I am ready to die now. I have seen what I been waiting for. I know Your Word is true and You keep all of Your promises!” PAUSE.

Beloved saints, don’t you wish you could have been there to behold with your eyes and hold in your arms the baby Jesus. We can and we do! The same Spirit makes it possible for us to hold the Christ not with our arms of course, but with our hearts. Faith’s arms may be invisible, but the Savior they hold is very real. Our joy shouldn’t be less than Simeon’s. We just were privileged to celebrate the birth of the Savior-our Savior and were able to hold Him more tightly and close to our hearts. That is the blessings we have and we will have it very soon as we gather around His table.

However, we don’t all cherish these moments or look forward to seeing Him or being with Him often. As I said earlier being a pastor is also a burden. It is a burden because as a pastor you want to bless your people with all the gifts the Savior has given—but your people don’t accept it or walk away from it.

Add to that, some don’t cherish this blessed medicine of immortality. Some are not even eager to receive the body and blood of Jesus. Even those who come don’t take a deep look and see what lies before them. We go through the motions without even realizing the gift that awaits us at the Altar. We don’t say with joy I am ready; instead, “Oh no, we are having the Lord’s Supper the service will take longer today!” Rather than being eager with excitement and great anticipation to both receive the medicine of immortality and be ready to depart, we would rather stay longer on planet earth. Our eyes are focused on temporary things rather than eternal blessings.

We should be eager like the saint I visit who is always ready to both receive the Sacrament of the Lord and to depart from this world. We ought to be eager and realize that every time we gather in this place, we have a little Christmas, Easter and Passover. We should with longing eyes be eager to see that what’s on the Altar is none other than God’s Salvation—the the true, real and blessed Sacrament of the Babe of Bethlehem who was willing to be broken and bruised for us to give us—sinners His salvation.

You may not be ready but Jesus is. He is ready even now to forgive you your sins. He is ready to receive you in His loving arms. He is ready to bless you always with every good and perfect gift. He is ready to spend time with you and feed you and nurture you. He is ready even now to hold you as His very own child.

As Simeon beheld the Babe of Bethlehem both with his eyes and arms, so do you. Today, you will see the Salvation. Today you will hold the body and blood and take it into your mouth. Today, you will be blessed and by the Spirit’s power will sing the song of Simeon and say: “Lord, I am Ready! Ready to partake of this medicine and ready to spend my eternity with You!”

In the name of the salvation of Israel and the joy He brings, I say Amen and Amen.

Now the peace…


“The Humbled Son of God!”

S-1467 CD/3B 12/25/2014 Hymns: (O) #95; (S) 92; L.S. #87; #647; (C) # 97

Texts: Isaiah 7:11-14; Philippians 2:5-11; John 1:1-14

Theme: “The Humbled Son of God!” (Phil. 2:6-8) 5th in sermon series on: “Humility in the Holy Land”

Question: “Why did you come to Bethlehem today?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Merry Christmas to one and ALL! Alleluia. The text for this blessed celebration of Christmas is from the Epistle Lesson: “Jesus Christ, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross

Oh, sweet, precious children of God. How rich we are and how blessed we are that God would choose such a lowly birth to be with us. Oh that we would peer deeply into the manger today and behold a marvelous gift—God’s own Son in the flesh. I am so excited about this event that I am getting ahead of myself.

This morning saints in Christ I wish you a very joyous and Merry Christmas. On this day, we are humbled to come to the manger of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Throughout this year’s Advent season we have heard about the Humility in the Holy Land. Through the Spirit’s power and the use of His Word, we first saw the humble prophets, who with longing eyes waited patiently to see the fulfillment of their prophecies of the coming Messiah. Yet, even though they were persecuted and laughed at and even though they never saw the fulfillment in their earthly lives they continued to proclaim the promise of a Savoir who would come to rescue God’s people from sin and death.

We traveled along the road to Bethlehem with the humbled couple who were used by God to be the parents of God’s own Son. This humbled couple trusted the promises of God and believed the words of the angel. In humility they accepted the challenge of being parents in spite of the fact this journey was not going to be an easy one. They knew what others would say about Mary being pregnant out of wedlock and Joseph taken her for a wife. They put their hopes and dreams in the humble baby which they would nurture and care for.

Last week, we visited the lowly and obscure village the HOUSE OF BREAD—Bethlehem. As we learned from Holy Scripture how the Father of all creation would use such a humble village to accomplish great things and bring forth from it a son of David who would sit on the throne of His father David forever.

Last night, we saw a marvelous and magnificent event in the skies above Bethlehem, that God would proclaim through a heavenly visitor the glorious news not to kings or princes who were in palaces and temples; but to lowly and humble shepherds that the Savior of the world has been born. PAUSE.

Now, on this glorious day, as we have been brought to the manger by the Holy Spirit, we too are humbled to see that GOD HUMBELED HIMSELF AND TOOK ON HUMAN FLESH TO BE THE SAVIOR OF THE WORLD.

The facts are before us and the story is true and real. The Babe has been born. He is swaddled and nestled among the hay and in relative safety of the manger. The angels on high have sung their Gloria in Excelsis. The shepherds who were once sore afraid, have come in haste and are now rejoicing over what they have seen and heard at the direction of their good and gracious Lord. Mary is hard at work pondering in her heart all that she has experienced over the last 9 months. All of this is done. Today is Christmas. Today the world, including you and me, rejoices at the reality that we are recipients of the greatest gift of all time! God is in the flesh! Love has come down at Christmas. Joy to the world and joy to you and me! The God-Man has entered our world by a humble baby.

On this Christmas Day, remember the joy that this humbled Son of God gives to each and every sinner. The joy of this morning is still present. Even if life seems to overshadow and swallow this joy, it is still here. It is still here because the Lord is here. On this day it is critical that we take a moment and linger at the Manger. We can’t be distracted by the cuteness of the baby. Look closely. What you see is remarkable. You see in the face of this infant the very face of God. The tiny hands that wrap themselves around Mary’s finger were instrumental in the creation of the entire universe! This is God in the flesh! Almighty God is an infant. The Creator becomes the creature. The infinite becomes finite located within space and time. When you stand at the manger and ponder like Mary ponders, the wonder of Christmas doesn’t fade so quickly. In the most humble of packages, we see the most magnificent, marvelous and majestic gift of all time for all people everywhere! PAUSE.

But why would God do this? What would make the King of Kings and Lord of Lords humble Himself and become a baby? It would seem that God has come to go slumming with His people. As we gaze in the manger we can be certain that this is not the case! As author Chad Bird makes clear:

The incarnation is not so much God-made-small as it is man-made-big. The God who made man in His own image outdoes Himself: He makes Himself into His own image and thereby exalts us. Jesus becomes what you are—a woman’s child—that He might make you what He is—a son of the Father. That’s what this is all about. One small step for God, one giant leap for mankind. He becomes no less, but we become infinitely more in Him. Within the womb of Mary, something new happens under the sun. A woman is pregnant with God, by God, for us. Conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, Jesus issues forth as the first man of a new race. This race calls God Father, and means it. For in the fullness of time, He sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

This is the God—the God-made-man—you need. He is the Lord you have. He gives purity to the depraved, life to the dead, salvation to you under hell’s thumb. He did not come to save the trees or the spotted owl. He was not born to rid the world of hunger or stop the ravages of war. He came to be for every man what no man has been or could be for himself. Born under the law, Jesus fulfilled the law He Himself had given. He was the perfect infant, perfect teenager, perfect adult. He bore your flesh and blood along through every stage of life, bearing it to the cross, bearing it out of the grave. And all of it is credited to you. You—perfect infant; you—perfect teenager; you—perfect adult, all in Jesus. For God so loved the world, He strapped the world to the back of His Son, so that where He went and what He did, you went and you did also.

This is all wrapped up in this humble gift. Just like the tiny atom when split gives off tremendous power, so this Baby Jesus, so sweet and small an unassuming has more than enough power to overcome the world. He can overcome the world because He made it. He comes to overcome this world of sin and death for one clear purpose: to give you joy!

The joy that this Christ Child brings to you and me is so much bigger than the joy that the world is selling today. In fact, that is part of the world’s problem! Our Christmas is too small! When our Christmas is too small, too located in Bethlehem our joy is too soon gone. For there is so much of our lives that are lived in the wilderness of life. If Christmas and Bethlehem are but an oasis in the wilderness of life, it too easily becomes a mirage. This is especially true because in the wilderness is where our bank account runs out of money before we run out of month. In the wilderness is where those routine medical tests give less than routine answers. In the wilderness the faithful spouse wanders and the golden child rebels. When our Christmas and our Savior is too small, the world overruns it like a rampaging army!

But thanks be to God, that He humbled Himself and came to overcome our wilderness and give His wonder forever. In Humility He came to be our Savior and Redeemer. In love He adopted us—to be His very own. In mercy He forgave and in grace He wraps us with His garment of salvation and sends us out on our way rejoicing.

No wonder everyone makes a big deal out of Christmas—because it is! It is for you in the humble Son of God who made your heart His manger for today and always. A very Merry BIG Christmas to you and yours! Amen.

Now the peace…


“Humbled By A Visitor!”

S-1466 CE/3B 12/24/2014 Hymns: (O) #102; 97; 647; 92; (S) #109; (C) # 94

Texts: Micah 5:2-5; Galatians 3:26-4:7; Luke 2:1-20

Theme: “Humbled By A Visitor!” (Luke 2:8-12) 4th in sermon series on: “Humility in the Holy Land”

Question: “Who is visiting you tonight?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Merry Christmas to one and ALL! Alleluia. The text for this blessed celebration of Christmas is the Gospel Lesson: And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger (Luke 2:8-12).

Children of the heavenly Father, this night is special and beautiful for so many reasons. By the grace of God and His mercy we have been brought here to celebrate the birth of the Savior—OUR Savior, Jesus Christ. Tonight as we continue on the journey in the Holy Land, we find ourselves just outside the small and lowly town of Bethlehem—in the hills of Judea with some shepherds watching their flocks at night.

Bethlehem is the home of David the shepherd boy who became king and shepherded the flock of God’s people—Israel. Into this setting—out in the hill country we travel. Upon arriving at the scene we see sheep lying down and shepherds standing watch over their flock around the fire. While they are there, a most unusual event takes place. A visitor comes to them. At his sight they are frightened. But the heavenly visitor comforts them with the words of the text. “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger The visitor proclaimed to them the joyous reason for his visit: to announce the glorious news of the birth of the Virgin’s Child—the Babe of Bethlehem.

To be sure what these shepherds saw was no-man-made production. It was God’s matchless production and presentation over the skies of Bethlehem on that first Christmas. And to whom that message was announced—to lowly, looked down upon and humble shepherds. The humbled shepherds got front row seats as the sky lit up before their own eyes by this visitor.

What an unusual evening that was for these shepherds. It changed their lives forever. They were the sons of Abraham. They had heard the promises of God. They had been taught of the coming Messiah in their Synagogues and waited patiently for His arrival to give them freedom, peace and joy. Tonight with the announcement of this visitor life had more meaning. PAUSE.

As the humble shepherds were on those hills of Bethlehem one glorious visitor lifted their lowly estate to a glorious and wondrous one. At the great news, these lowly and often overlooked and even despised shepherds ran in haste to see this thing which was told them. And when they got there they beheld with their own eyes God made manifest. Immanuel had come. God entered time and space. God takes upon Him humanity and its filthiness. God becomes man for us and for our salvation.

Come closer beloved and see and hear the characters in the Christmas scene and their words which we read every year during this time. We see clearly and plainly that Christmas is more than just one night, it is an ongoing celebration for you and for me. We see this in the familiar conduct of those wonderful shepherds. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. They heard this wonderful message and they couldn’t help but go find the sign that the angel promised. And what do you know, they found Him! And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. What they found there in Bethlehem didn’t look like a Savior. What they found was a baby, a young mother and a father only marginally less scared than they were as they were serenaded by the Angels. They would never had known unless they were given the sign. But they had been given the sign. The arrow pointed to the Babe! This unassuming Child is the glory of God and the peace of man all wrapped up in One neat little package!

Can you imagine their joy? You can imagine that when they found what the Lord had made known to them it would be quite impossible to keep quiet. Luke tells us And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. As they left the manger, they spoke with all people. They told Mordechi the butcher, Yitsaach the Rabbi, Yoseph the scribe and Rachel the seamstress. Everywhere they went they told of the message that had been shared with them. Their lives had been changed indeed—because of this precious Baby. PAUSE.

However, let be known among us that a baby won’t save anyone. The birth of this Holy Child does not save you. No, there is so much more to this journey. While it is good that we have been brought here in humility by the Holy Spirit, to see with eyes of faith again the story of Christmas—there is so much more for us to know, learn and appreciate about this Holy Child in the manger.

The story of Christmas is simply the first step that will lead Jesus from the Manger to the Cross. There He will trade His swaddling clothes for grave clothes. Those angels who were so magnificent announcing the birth that First Christmas will be eerily silent as the Father will turn His back on this Child of Bethlehem grown to be a Savior and sacrifice Himself as the Lamb on Good Friday at Calvary! This is where the Babe of Bethlehem seals the deal for us! This is where the payment for sin is made! This is where we see the enormous gift of this Holy Child, which was announced by the visitor to the shepherds. By faith these humble shepherds believed and trusted in His work of redeeming mankind and gave them forgiveness of sins.

Precious sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, if we stop here and treat the wonder of this night as a destination, we will never arrive at the place the Lord REALLY wants us to be. He wants us to be with Him not only for a day but for an eternity.

As the glorious visitor made His announcement to the humble shepherds, they left everything, went and saw and told others. That is what we should be doing as well. as the followers of this Holy Child.

My prayers for us this evening and in the coming days that we would do the same as these shepherds have done. Let’s enter the stable where the Savior lies bedded on the hay and wonder at the wondrous gift we have in Him. By the power of the Holy Spirit, may we pick this Baby up cradle Him both in our hands and hearts and never put Him down. And when we have drunk from His grace leave this place to tell others of His coming to save us.

There may not be Mordechi the butcher, Yitsaach the Rabbi, or Yoseph the scribe and Rachel the seamstress, in this community or yours. But we have people right here in this community who don’t know the Savior. What a privilege the Lord gives us to be humbled by a visitor and share the greatest story ever told—the story of our salvation, redemption, restoration and rejoicing all because the Babe of Bethlehem has come to us tonight and always. Merry Christmas!!! Amen!

Now the peace…


“Leave Fear at the Door!” (Luke 1: 29-30)

S-1465 4SIA/3B 12/21/2014 Hymns: (O) #61; (S) #263; (C) # 94

Texts: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38

Theme: “Leave Fear at the Door!” (Luke 1: 29-30)

Question: “What are you afraid of?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia. The text for 4th Sunday in Advent is from the Gospel Lesson: But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God (Luke 1: 29-30).

Beloved people of God, fear can rob us of comfort, cause us sleepless nights and take the joy of living out of our hearts. Fear comes in many different forms. Some are afraid of death, loss of job, divorce, fire, not enough funds to pay the bills. And others are afraid of darkness, being robbed or being alone. No matter what is your fear, it is real and can debilitate a person.

Valerie Harper (actress who played Rhoda) on the Mary Tyler More Show (1970) was diagnosed with lung and brain cancer and was given only 3 months to live. Two years later, as she continued the fight said, “Every moment of fear robs you of your moment to live. If we spend much time in fear we are wasting these moments and we are not living right.” How right she is. To be afraid is to almost stop living.

But unless you know that first hand, it is hard for us to comprehend how fear stops us in our tracks. Before Israel became a country (May 14, 1948) many of the Palestinian villages were cleansed by Israeli Zionist who wanted all Palestinian people out of the Holy Land. Listen to a seven year old boy who lived through this kind of fear.

Elias Chachour, a priest from Ebelin, Israel helps us see how fear can grab our hearts like a vice grip and rob us of sleep. In his book Blood Brothers he writes: “As spring 1949 pounced upon us, tiger-like with its ferocious heat, I could see little peace anywhere but in our own home. We rose each morning with the fear {emphasis mine} that we might not lie down on our mats that evening. At any moment, we, too, might be swept away (p. 46). PAUSE.

Fear is like an anvil on your chest. Fear is taking the light out of your eyes, air out of your lungs and hope out of your future. In our text this morning we see a young lady who experienced this type of fear.

Into the village of Nazareth, Gabriel—the messenger of God was sent to Mary’s house. He told her that she will become the mother of God. At his words we are told she became exceedingly anxious about the news. Luke paints this image in the text: But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.

Indeed Mary was afraid and terrified. Put yourself in her shoes and you can see why. In her day (unlike ours) people looked down on unwed pregnant women. Also the fact that the Lord in His Word stated a woman who is pregnant before marriage is to be stoned to death. Add to that she is standing before the holy angel Gabriel. Sinful people just simply can’t stand in the presence of a Holy God. They can’t even stand with heads erect before one of God’s angels.

But the angel brought her comfort. He said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.” He calmed her spirit and confirmed to her that God is the reason why she shouldn’t be afraid. In essence he was saying: “Mary, leave fear at the door!” When God and His Word are involved you have nothing to fear because He is looking out for you. Yes, leave your fears at the door, God ordained to use you, Mary, to give birth to His Son who would come to save the human race. PAUSE.

Saints in Christ, let me ask you theses questions: “Are you afraid this Advent season?” “What are you afraid of?” The manger won’t mean much to us if we don’t reexamine the reason for His coming. We need to look past the veneer we paste over life and into our hearts. The sight isn’t pretty, but pretty horrible. We can no more kneel before Jesus’ manger than Mary could stand before that angel. But God has favored us too. He sent His Son—the Babe of Bethlehem to remove our sins with His payment on Calvary’s cruel cross and through the empty tomb. He sent the heaven-sent Savior—Jesus, so you and I could stand without any anxiety, fear or dread before the Throne of Grace this blessed Christmas season.

Today’s Scripture highlights the promises of God spoken first to Adam/Eve, and then through the ages to Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David, Joseph and Mary. His promises drive out fear from our broken hearts and lives. His promises comfort us as our opening hymn reminded us: “Comfort Ye, Comfort Ye, My people says Your God.” Indeed He does comfort us because of His gracious love poured out on humanity in a little 7-8 pound baby held in His mother’s arms in Bethlehem’s manger.

Remember what God does, He does for our good and for His glory. He gives us comfort and hope. Just as the angel spoke to Mary in Nazareth while terrified saying, “Don’t be afraid, Mary!” and with these words she was comforted and left fear at the door. So too, is the message today, 21 centuries later. The voice is still the same, the message is the still the same and the outcome is still the same—Don’t be afraid, little children!

Our gracious and loving God gently invites us, His children: “Tell Me all about it. There is no fear I can’t remove. No burden I can’t help you carry. No broken heart I can’t heal. No tear so bitter I can’t wipe away. No sin, regardless how often repeated, I have not forgiven.” PAUSE.

Beloved in the Lord, with the angel’s message, God fulfills the promise given to David that one of his own sons will sit on his throne forever. Jesus is the Son promised to come and in a few days we will welcome Him again, He who came in human flesh and now sits not only on the throne of David but also in our hearts.

Because of His coming we can and do leave fear at the door. Because of His coming we know that we serve an impossible God. He does the impossible. We can’t fathom this at all with our human mind; but we believe by faith. Because of His coming, we know how much God loves us and that He didn’t spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us; so that we may live with Him forever.

The promises of God are many. They give us comfort and peace even when the devil tries to take our eyes from Christ and focus on us and our situations. Here are few verses to help you leave fear at the door; not because I said so, but rather because God, our gracious and loving Father said so and His Word is final and eternal. May these words bring you comfort

“After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: Fear not, Abram, I Am Your shield; Your reward shall be very great’” (Genesis 15:1)

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord Your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9).

But the Lord said to him, ‘Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die’” (Judges 6:23)

Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, Your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” (Isaiah 35:4)

“…Fear not, for I Am with you; be not dismayed, for I Am Your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

And the precious Words of Jesus: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me” (John 14:6).

Saints in Christ, if you are afraid today, or any day for that matter, I exhort you in the name of Him who came to earth, lived the perfect life in our behalf, died our death and rose again, Your Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ to leave fear at the door. For when Jesus enters in, fears fly away.

That is why we can and do leave fear at the door since the Savior promised to be with us forever and ever. Amen.

Now the peace…


“Chosen to be Humbled” (Micah 5:2)

S-1464 3MIA/3B 12/17/2014 Hymns: (O) #62; (S) 647; (C) #56

Texts: Psalm 80:1-7; Micah 5:2-5; Luke 1:39-45

Theme: “Chosen to be Humbled” (Micah 5:2)

Question: “Have you ever been humbled by someone’s request?” 3rd in sermon series on: “Humility in the Holy Land”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia. The text for 3rd Midweek in Advent is from the O.T. Lesson: But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for Me One who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days (Micah 5:2).

Beloved and beautiful children of the heavenly Father, by the grace of God we have been brought here again, so that we may continue our journey in the Holy Land. Tonight our pilgrimage takes us to an obscure village called Bethlehem. As we make our stop in Bethlehem we realize that we are in the Southern part of the Holy Land—only 7 miles from Jerusalem.

Just outside this lowly village an angel was sent to announce the greatest news ever told with these words: “…Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:10-12). Into sleepy Bethlehem the shepherds ran with haste to see the thing that was told them.

But why did God choose this little, lowly town. Why was Bethlehem chosen and not Jerusalem, Caesarea, Tiberius, or Nazareth? The text that engages us this evening sheds a little light on Bethlehem being chosen to be humbled.

The prophet Micah, 700 years before the birth of Christ prophesied these words: But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for Me One who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. God had chosen this little town for a reason that He will reveal to us and helps us know the great love the Father lavishes on us.

Bethlehem has a rich history that helps us during this time of the year to pay close attention and focus more thoroughly, especially in the singing of many of the Christmas hymn. But especially, as we just sang our sermon hymn, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”

This obscure village has a history that demonstrates how much God cares for His people. Here Jacob buried his beloved wife Rachel (for whom he served 14 years). Here is also is the story of Naomi who returned from Moab with her daughter-in-law Ruth the Moabite?

In Bethlehem the God of heaven cared for the lowly and widows by providing Boaz, her Kinsman-Redeemer. He married the Moabite Ruth and through their union she gave birth to a son, and they called him Obed. Obed gave birth to Jesse and Jesse gave birth to David—who became the 2nd king and shepherd over Israel—God’s own people.

Bethlehem is the house of David and became known as the City of David. In Psalm 110 David writes these prophetic words: The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, ‘You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek’ (vs. 4). To be sure the promise given David is fulfilled in the birth of Christ in Bethlehem’s manger.

But again, we must ask the question: “Why would God choose Bethlehem to be THE humble place for the birth of His Only begotten Son? The answer lies in the fact that humble shepherds fit right in with God’s choice of a humble village, and a humble mother named Mary, and a humble step-dad named Joseph.

In emphasizing such details, the heavenly Author of the Christmas story is making a most important point: When it comes to Bethlehem and when it comes to Calvary—where salvation, redemption, reconciliation and eternity are involved—anyone and everyone can have a place in the presence of the One who loved us by the sending of His Son.

In fact, in God’s economy there are places reserved for all people, regardless of their earthly state, station or stature. No one is excluded. The Savior was born, died, and rose again for one and for all—including you and me.

You see beloved, God chose humble Bethlehem, because from it will come the Bread that will feed us forever—for that is what Bethlehem means—“the house of Bread.” From this lowly, little, obscure village comes the One who was foretold from of old and who will rule forever and ever on the throne of His Father David.

Bethlehem was chosen because God chooses to pour out His love upon us. In Humility we see love put in Bethlehem’s manger. From the world, we expect a love that is self-serving and self-seeking—only looking for what it can get out of it. Or a love that is self-rewarding—reaching out only to those who have done or will do something in return. Or a love that’s fickle—that flickers with each shifting wind. The world’s type of love would never in a million years have put the Christ Child into the manger of Bethlehem. But God’s love could, would and did. In the Babe of Bethlehem, birthed in a stable and bedded in a manger we see love’s true light.

Bethlehem was chosen to be humbled because God the Author of lidw demonstrates this love, not because it is such a grand place to live, but in spite of it. The same is true for us as well. God’s love is poured into the manger of our hearts, not because we choose to love Him, follow Him or serve Him; but He does it in spite of us to show that there is not one person who walks this dusty world, that would be excluded from His grace and favor given in His Son—Jesus Christ.

As you and I linger tonight in the lowly town of Bethlehem, I want you to look deeply into the manger. See how real God’s love is for you and for me and for all. Here in this little town we see that God keeps His promises. This is not just talk with no action. Look closer and you will see how far His love is willing to go. All the way from the glories of heaven to a humble stable, on a scratchy bed of straw to save mankind from the eternal destruction of hell.

This evening as we continue to travel in the Holy Land, see how the Son of God humbled Himself for you, in a humble village so that He may lift you up to the home He is preparing for you. What joy fills our hearts as we walk, sing and praise Him who came from heaven above to earth below our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Now the peace…


“Delighted IN the Presence of Jesus” (Psalm 1:1-2)

S-1463 3SIA/3B 12/16/2014 Hymns: (O) #457; (S) #533; (C) # 57 SFD

Texts: Isaiah 43:1-3; Revelation 21:1-7; John 14:1-7

Theme: “Delighted IN the Presence of Jesus” (Psalm 1:1-2)

Question: “Celebration of the New Life of Alvera Luella Cunningham

Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! (3x). Beloved in the Lord, the text for the celebration of the New Life granted to our departed sister Alvera by her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ is her confirmation text from (Psalm 1:1-2) “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night

Beloved people of God, Psalm 1:2 speaks of the Christian’s delight. A “delight” is something that brings a great deal of satisfaction, gratification and pleasure. We are not to be a discouraged or defeated but rather a people who are delighted in the things of God. What you delight in tells everyone around you the condition of your heart. If it is the things of the world alone that bring you delight, then you’re focusing on earthly things. But if your delight is in the things of God then your heart is focusing on heavenly things and that offers peace and joy as we travel as pilgrims in this ball of mud we call earth. For we all know that this world can’t satisfy or meet our needs but only God can and does in His Son, Jesus Christ.

In the cycle of life a child looks with great joy and anticipation to open the packages that sit beneath the Christmas tree. In a few days we will see many children who are delighted as they get their hands on the gifts. They care nothing about the wrapping or the ribbon, they just tear into the gift. Likewise at the end of life, a person who is near death looks with the greatest joy and delight to be in the presence of Jesus Christ his/her Savior—the GIFT OF HEAVEN.

The truth is however that the only desire that matters or lasts is the desire to be connected to Jesus. That is the ultimate goal for every son of Adam and every daughter of Eve to be in the presence of Him who came in the flesh—the Babe of Bethlehem, Jesus Christ. To be sure, to be with Jesus is our eternal delight. To find delight in His presence is our eternal joy and our eternal rest. All because of the Greatest gift—the gift that keeps on giving—Jesus our Savior.

That is precisely what our departed sister is experiencing right now—she is delighted to be in the presence of her Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. But the desire to be with Jesus started long before she was even aware of it; it started with Him. The desire began with the One who created her in her mother’s womb. He confirmed this desire on September 25, 1922 when He called her in the waters of Baptism to be His very own for time and eternity. He solidified it to her on December 12, 2014 when He said to her, “Come, My daughter and delight yourself in My presence for the rest of your life!”

This delight was whenever she came to the Lord’s house. Here the Lord delighted her by forgiving her, her sins. Here in this place He delighted to offer her a sumptuous Meal of love and peace in His body and His blood. Here in this place she was delighted as she was privileged to be nurtured at the hearing of His Word.

Yes, Alvera meditated at His Word. She longed to be with her Lord and Savior. Even though for the last 8 years she hasn’t been able to be here, or was not in the best of health, yet she longed to be in His presence and to receive the life-giving Sacrament. What joy filled her heart as she took His body and blood into her mouth with the greatest delight.

Today, she is in His presence forevermore and that delight continues. She is indeed delighted to be in the presence of the One who came from heaven to earth so that He may die for her and all people who have been cursed by sin.

As we mourn our own loss, we rejoice that this Christmas our dear sister will be joining her voice with those she has loved who have gone before her, and with the angels and arch-angels and all of the heavenly host as they sing what the herald angel sang along with all voices then, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!" (Luke 2:14 ESV)

Yes, we spoke of her delight, her great delight in being in this house, with all of you, of praying for you, her family as you may have been scattered. Here and in her home, and finally, in her bed, where confusion reigned, she still delighted in that grandest news that Alvera was the daughter of the Most High God and that not only does He have her, but He has you, in those nail pierced hands that began as the stubby little digits of an infant.

As you go forth from this, the Lord’s House, the place where He gave birth to your beloved mother, where He washed her in the renewing flood of her Baptismal Grace as her sins were forgiven, where He fed and nourished her with nothing less than all that He is and all that He has, His very own Body and Blood, go forth, beloved, knowing that the good gift He has given in these walls and at her bedside, this Feast and this Forgiveness, this Love and this Peace has now gone from being a promise, to being sight!

The same Lord that brought so much delight to your dear Alvera also desires to delight in you. The call that came to her comes to you as well. He desires to forgive the crushing burden of your sin. It is His delight to bring you into His house and feed you with the very same heavenly manna with which He was delighted to feed Alvera. Even amidst the tears of this day, it is His delight to call you to look beyond this life to an eternity that He is calling you to spend with Him! He is calling you to delight in Him and His Word this day! This call is the only true answer to the grief that you feel. He gives it to you freely! It is His true delight this day!

Yes, and as we gather again in just eight days to sing the carols of His birth and as the Advent Wreath puts forth the full light of the Promise Kept, we will gather knowing that your beloved mother, that our dear sister delights, fully delights with you, for the God who loved her in this life, loves her still, and the God who loves you now, He is faithful and He shall surely keep you… in His perfect peace for: CHRIST IS RISEN! He is Risen, Indeed! Alleluia and Amen!

Now the peace of God…


“Do You Know the Man?” (John 1:6-8)

S-1462 3SIA/3B 12/14/2014 Hymns: (O) #62; (S) #74; L.S. #313; #306; (C) # 97

Texts: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 5:16-24

Theme: “Do You Know the Man?” (John 1:6-8)

Question: “Who is the most important man you know?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia. The text for 3rd Sunday in Advent is from the Gospel Lesson: There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light (John 1:6-8).

Beloved people of God, during our pilgrimage on earth we meet many people—people who leave their imprints on our hearts and lives. Today is no different. By God’s grace, as you and I walk the Advent road that leads to Bethlehem’s manger we meet again people along the way. Most of these people are familiar. When we meet them each year they come across as old friends. Along the way we meet that Virgin named Mary, the honorable Joseph and the celebrating shepherds. In fact, if I were to ask you to close your eyes right now and envision the scene of that first Christmas, I am certain that we would all have some sort of image of these familiar characters in mind.

But today we are reminded that along this Advent road we also meet one of the most unique and, quite frankly, odd characters in the Christmas story. In the Gospel lesson for today, we read these words about him: There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This John is so unlike the gentle Mary, the honorable Joseph, and those curious shepherds. This John is just, well, different.

Let us travel back in time to that era and behold him as he stands at the Jordan Bank. He is wild, he is boisterous! Where does he preach? He doesn’t preach in the synagogue or the temple in Jerusalem; instead he is out in the wilderness. And for weeks people travel to listen to this man who we are told in the Scriptures his food was honey and locust. Boy is that a good diet to lose weight on or not. He is an odd character, yet people for weeks traveled to this desolate place—the Judean wilderness to hear him and be baptized in the muddy Jordan. And if you were standing on the shores of this Jordan; you would ask the question: “Who is this man, do you know him?!?

We are told more about him through the Scriptures. Indeed, Scriptures give us a pretty clear picture of his identity. He is the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah the priest. We know that she was barren and almost beyond childbearing years when she conceived and bore John. But then again, that happens when God’s messengers get involved. You remember the account! Zechariah was behind the curtain at the Temple doing his duty when an angel came to him and told him about this child. How in unbelief Zechariah was sentenced to silence until this son would be named. PAUSE.

When John came upon the scene, he wore a most unusual garment that you can’t find either at Macy’s or Yonkers. He wore Camel’s hair outfit and he lived where crazy people live—in the wilderness. Yet, as multitudes came out to hear him; the Jewish hierarchy wanted to know “Who is this man, do you know him?!?” Thus they sent a delegation to inquire of him.

Upon reaching him they asked: “Who are you? We need to give answer to those who sent us. John’s answer to their interrogation is KEY for us this Advent. Notice how John answers very pointed questions that demand a direct answer. He doesn’t answer them by telling them who he IS. He answers them by telling them who he is NOT! He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No” (John 20-21). There is no pretending or pretense in this strange man. He is not the long promised Christ. He is not the return of Elijah that the prophet Malachi speaks of. He isn’t even the “prophet like Moses who would arise from the people” that we hear of in Deuteronomy 18. He is none of these images that the Jews would expect in a Messiah figure. So, “Who is this man, do you know him?!?

However, the prophet Isaiah helps us with his response: I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”…“I baptize with water, but among you stands One you do not know, even He who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”

He is not Elijah, He is the not Prophet, and He is not the Christ. He is simply a voice. His message and ranting are about the One who would come after him. In another place the Baptizer says: “I must decrease and He must increase” (John 1:30). And thus we return and ask this question: “Who is this man, do you know him?!?” People wanted to know who John the Baptizer is.

He is simply a messenger of God, calling people to repentance. And when Jesus finally comes upon the scene, John points with that blessed finger and says: Behold The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). I would love to have scene a video of this precious moment as he points to another Man and says, “HE IS THE ONE!” He is the long expected Messiah!” 2700 years ago Isaiah spoke about Him as if He has already come. He is “God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God” (Nicene Creed). He is the Man sent from heaven to be our Savior. He is the God-Man who enters our world of sin, death and decay, and turns it upside down and makes it whole again. PAUSE.

The question we have been asking is this: “Who is this man, do you know him?!?” That is the question you ultimately must answer. Do you know this Man? I am certain; some of you have met wonderful men in this world. Some of them are important others are not as much. But there is only One man that is very important for us to know that is the God-Man, Christ Jesus.

As our sermon hymn so beautifully and eloquently reminded us of His mission and ministry, “That He comes to bring forgiveness. He comes to correct the wrong and death that took place in the Garden of Eden” (TLH #74). He comes to heal the broken hearted, to free the prisoners. He comes in human flesh to live the perfect life so that we may not be accused as Nathan (Prophet) told David (King of Israel), “You are the man!”(1 Samuel 12). Even though Moses is the man of God, yet we know he is a murderer.

However, the Man we are talking about is different. When He was accused by the Jewish leaders of blasphemy, and led to Pilates court He remained silent. Reminiscent of what Isaiah said of Him: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth” (53:7).

We need to unpack these prophetic Words: When Jesus stood in the presence of Pilate; He was acknowledging His condemnation already. He became the murderer, adulterer, the thief, the liar and deceiver. Every sin that you and I have committed was placed upon Him. Thus we are moved to ask this question: “Who is this man, do you know him?!?

Beloved in the Lord, you may know a lot of people in this world; you may know the most wonderful men in the world, or perhaps even the President. But when it comes to salvation none of these men will be able to help you. There is ONLY One Man. He is the One of whom John said, Behold The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” PAUSE.

Today, on the Advent wreath we lit up the third candle. It is the candle of joy. Advent reminds us of the great joy that this God-Man was sent to earth to accomplish. With His gracious hands He healed many, opened the eyes of the blind, raised people from the dead and freed those who have been captives by sins claws and under death’s hold.

John the Baptizer, this odd, unique and wild character in the Christmas drama spoke of Jesus because He is more important. He said, “Among you stand One whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” He has done that when He came in human flesh and took upon Him our humanity and laid in the manger of straw. He lived the perfect life for us and finally laid to the slaughter upon the cursed cross of Calvary for you and for me.

You should also remember that because of this God-Man you are no longer condemned. Satan our accuser comes to the presence of God and says: “God You are a just, holy and perfect and You demand perfection from Your subject. This woman, this man standing before You have sinned. Your Word declares those who sin must die! Carry out that sentence of death!” But into this scene walks the God-Man Jesus Christ and steps between God and us and declares: “Father, I have paid the penalty for their sins. I have shed My blood for them. I have washed them clean. I have covered them not with camel’s hair but with the white robe of righteousness. They have been purchased by Me Father. Since You are just, holy and perfect You can’t judge them since You have already judged Me!”

Don’t forget this truth: This God-Man has paid the price for our Freedom. Again, we must ask the question: “Who is this man, do you know him?!?” He is the long expected Messiah. His message of peace echoes to all generations and throughout all of the centuries. His ministry continues to draw us ever closer to Him.

As we spend time around Him and in His house of worship we hear His voice and by the working of His Spirit, that voice dwells in us. And when we are fed, nurtured and strengthened, we leave this place as His voice to the world. For after all, there is Only One Man that the world needs to know He is the God-Man, Your Lord and Savior, who give us joy, love, forgiveness and peace forevermore. What a blessing we have as we get to know this Man and make Him known to others. Amen.

Now the peace…


“Humbled Couple” (Matthew 1:18-19)

S-1461 2MIA/3B 12/10/2014 Hymns: (O) #274; (S) 114; (C) #61

Texts: Psalm 24:1-10; Isaiah 7:10-14; Matthew 1:18-25

Theme: “Humbled Couple” (Matthew 1:18-19)

Question: “Have you ever heard of unbelievable news?” 2nd in sermon series on: “Humility in the Holy Land”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia. The text for 2nd Midweek in Advent is from the Gospel Lesson: Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly (Matthew 1:18-19).

Beloved and beautiful children of the heavenly Father, last week we traveled throughout all of the Holy Land. Tonight, our travel draws us to a village in the northern part of Galilee—Nazareth. 2100 years ago in this back wood village lived a young lady a maiden called Mary and a young soon-to-be husband named Joseph. To them the angel of the Lord was sent with news that turned their lives upside down and caused chaos, confusion and heartache. Both received news that shocked them and caused them to wonder about the plans of God to redeem mankind.

The news given to this young lady was a hard pill to swallow. Here is what she heard in her room that night long ago when the angel Gabriel visited her. “…Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of his father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:28b-33). What a shocking announcement! What a scandalous episode! This unmarried lady will become pregnant and give birth to a son.

Gabriel called her “O Favored one…” Really! How can a young lady in a backwoods village in Nazareth be favored when she will become the laughing stock of the whole community? Come closer and walk with me through this village; see and hear of the pain in her heart and in her eyes as she walks down the streets.

Her heart is churning; her emotions are messed up, she is heavy-laden as she walks ever so slowly to tell her would-be-future husband—Joseph that she is now with child. Can you see his face? Can you see the steam coming out of his nostrils? Can you see the anger building up? This news filled him with anguish and pain. This news shattered his hopes and dreams of the future wife he wanted to marry. PAUSE.

We might think it was easy for Mary and Joseph to receive this news, but it wasn’t. This couple had to deal with much pain though Scripture says favored by God. But what kind of favor is this? People are laughing, ridiculing, pointing fingers, and looking at her with those suspicious eyes. Every person is gawking at her as she brings her water jar to the well to fill it up. The village ladies stand around and whisper behind her back. The gossip is flowing throughout the fields, carpenter shops, in the market place and in the synagogue. Even her mom and dad were suspicious of what she said. Can you see the tug on her heart strings?

But this pain is not hers alone. Let us go to the other side of the village and see Joseph. Do you see him pacing the floor, shaking his head, scratching his hair, pulling on his beard and asking how can she do this? How can she betray me? How could she ruin my life? I had hoped she would be the mother of my children and my-life-long partner.

Into the midst of this confused couple that the angel comes. He comes with the assurance that this is the work of God. God’s Spirit will come upon Mary and she will give birth to the Most High God. She will be the virgin Isaiah spoke about saying, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). This couple was chosen by God to be the humble couple who will care for the God who would become man. They were chosen to be the care givers, providers and protectors to the infant Jesus as He enters our world to save it from the wrath of God. They were chosen to teach Him how to live in this world and raise Him up in the fear of God—God of their father’s Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

By the grace and mercy of God Joseph and Mary humbled themselves to be servants of the most high God. They permitted themselves to endure all sorts of evil to fulfill God’s promise—in sending His only begotten Son—Jesus into our world. They humbled themselves to suffer every accusation, every gossip, and every injustice to do what God has called them to do.

The life of the humble couple wasn’t easy though they were favored by God. Yet they held on to the sure and certain hope given to them through the Word of the angel. The Word of God was and is the anchor that held them together as they faced the barrage of dishonor and shame. PAUSE.

Likewise, we, children of God the favored ones, struggle to live the perfect life in this inhospitable world. We are at times called fools for Jesus because we live our lives different than the world. We struggle just like this humble couple because we have to listen to the gossip, endure the evil the world throws at us and put up with every injustice. As the children of God living in this broken world we are called fools because we follow the Word and live by the Word.

The world might call us fools. But we are NOT!!! We are God’s own and dear children. John the Apostle put it this way: See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him” (1 John 3:1). Indeed, we are the children of the heavenly Father. By grace through faith we have received the adoption through the waters of Baptism. Some people call us fools because we baptize infants. Some people call us fools because we dine at His altar receiving His body and blood. Some people call us fools because we dedicate time to be in His house, give of our first-fruit gifts to serve Him and His people; and some call us fools for trusting in an eternal paradise. In the world’s eyes we might be fools, but not in God’s eyes.

We know that fact well. That is why Advent helps us to focus on the One who was indeed favored by God our Savior—the One Isaiah spoke about 2700 years ago. That is why Advent helps us to concentrate on the One the Angel told Mary about 2100 years ago. That is why Advent encourages us to remain steadfast in our hope and trust in His Word—the Word made flesh and tented among us in Bethlehem’s manger.

If you think that life for the humble couple was difficult! If you think our lives as Christians is difficult! Then know the truth that it is. However, their lives and ours are not as bad as what happened to the true Favored Son of the Father. The Babe of Bethlehem had to endure much worse. While an infant his parents had to flee to Egypt. As He grew up He was laughed at by many and during His crucifixion became the laughing stock of those who deride Him, spit on Him, shamed Him and beat Him to the point of death. Yet He endured it so that He can be their Savior and ours.

On this holy night, may our hearts be filled with the joy of knowing that God uses us in spite of us so that in humility we can serve Him and bring glory to His holy name and cause others to learn more about the Savior who came to earth to save them through His death and resurrection.

What a blessing this humble couple were and are to the world! What a blessing you as humble servants are to the world. But above all, what grace and mercy we receive from the humble servant—Jesus Christ—the Babe of Bethlehem who gave us eternal life and peace with God forever. Amen.

Now the peace of God…